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Radio To Go recommended gigs

Gig ticker     Goodnight Lenin + Dan Whitehouse at Prince Of Wales B'ham Thurs Apr 17th get tickets | GNL recording session interview...     ADO + Frenzies at Mo-Dough B'ham Fri April 18th get tickets...     UB40 at Institute B'ham Apr 18th sold out and 19th  Brian Travers interview  | get tickets...     Jaws + Dumb + The Magic Gang at Institute Library B'ham April 19th  get tickets ...     Electric Swing Orchestra + Destroyers at Swingamajig Festival, Spotlight, Birmingham May 4th get tickets ...     Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls at Hare & Hounds B'Ham May 22nd  Erica Nockalls interview...     

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Electric Swing Circus: a band with a plan

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Electric Swing Circus' Tom Hyland is the embodiment of positive and optimistic. He's easy to chat to, and remarkably open about his band's business. I threw a volley of tough questions at him this week; he fielded them all graciously and with good humour.

I first talked to Tom to chart the band's progress since its formation in 2011. This week? A catch-up, ahead of the Swingamajig festival. 

The band clearly has a plan and a route map. They pretty much have a local monopoly on Electro-Swing, a genre which is huge in the States, big along the South Coast and in London, with devoted, high-energy fans. ESC made a whizzbang start with twostonking videos, making them permanent fixtures in the six-monthly Radio To Go video rankings. Since then, there's been an album, and a steady development of their associated brands, like Swingamajig and Hot Club De Swing. But it's been extremely hard work. The workload, along with the day jobs, can be close to overwhelming. They have a plan for that too.   

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Arts Funding: it's DIFFERENT in Germany. A chat with Simon Halsey, CBSO Chorus Master

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I first met Simon Halsey 32 years ago, when he joined the team at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Now, he is the CBSO Chorus Master. This summer, he leads an extravagant public participation project, Crowd Out, taking over Millennium Point with a thousand, count 'em, a thousand, singers. I'm in: there's a blog post to come on this later this year. 


Halsey at TEDx, Berlin 2010. Photo Sebastian Gabsch
At rehearsals, he flipped from English to German with ease, the result of working in Berlin for the past 15 years. He is ferociously busy, about to swap the Berlin Philharmonic Chorus, Germany's top choir, for the London Symphony equivalent. His job is Chorus Master, but in reality it's a lot more. He has deep knowledge of funding, and, critically, of how organisations can survive and prosper, re-inventing themselves, burrowing deep into in the communities they serve, with humility and practical intent. 

So, he is an interesting and political man, as well as a committed musician with
a unique perspective.UK Arts and Media institutions could do well to study how the CBSO, with his help, has played its hand over the past three decades. There are profound lessons to learn. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Dumb team: One Beat at a time

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There's a sweet meeting of worlds coming up in two weeks. At the Birmingham Institute, new boys Jaws, Dumb and The Magic Gang do 2014 Indie. In the main room, UB40 are on, for several nights. The old and the new; a nice coincidence. One Beat's Ian Light agrees.

One Beat? Most people know the name from the very successful One Beat Saturday and Sunday day-long gigs they've run summer times in Birmingham, focusing on new local talent. The next One Beat is in July, expanded to a two day bash, this year working with urgently cool on-trend promoters This Is Tmrw. The complete bill is yet to be released, but I expect a speedy sell-out: the mac arena venue is fabulous, if a bit small.

One Beat has a longer history than open air gigs. It's a record company and a management outfit, with one band on the books: Dumb. One Beat's Ian Light has a lot on his hands.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

17 hours, 2 studios, 2 finished cuts, one 7 inch. Finally, new stuff from Goodnight Lenin!

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This is about doing it differently. It's also about Record Store Day, the annual Indie record store bash where 700 UK stores – yes, there still are that many – celebrate their independence, and, often, survival. 

This follows on from last week's, on the Album format. If artists are using the format the way last week's post suggests, Indie record stores are where you'll need to go to get them. 

On Record Store Day, a world of lovingly prepared, unique and mainly indie collectibles will be on sale. Pressing runs will be insanely limited. I really can't see any acts gaining financially: it's done to highlight a retail sector which supports independent artists, sometimes in very difficult trading conditions. 

Last Sunday, Goodnight Lenin were in Birmingham's Highbury Studio to cut two songs for Record Store Day. The tracks were mixed at Artisan; all done in under 24 hours, with a limited 7" vinyl run to come from the results. The songs? vintage Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The band's many reasons, along with session photos, exclusive rehearsal audio and more are after the jump.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

On recording that difficult first album. The question might be - why?

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OK, what's the least attractive format?
I went to a terrific show weekend before last at Ort Cafe in Birmingham. The opening act, previously the Young Runaways, now morphed to Drakelow, kicked things off. The front man, in between some rather nice songs, talked, in some detail, about plans for a forthcoming album. And that started me thinking. 

Here's the thing. I get exactly why Drakelow are working on that album. I applaud them. But in a perverse way, albums are now a terribly dated concept, at least from my aged perspective. From an artist's perspective, it's clear: doing an album means you set your stall out, you make a statement, you express yourself. You leave something more substantial in the world than the memory of a few live gigs.

Most of the acts I know want to, or are preparing to, cut an album, or a single, or some vinyl, or an EP. And yet, the concept of an album is now well over a hundred years old. It's out of time. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Beat goes on. And on. And on. Three different ways.

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It's complicated. We're now living in a universe where three, count 'em, three Beats are clattering, rattling, skanking, twisting and crawling.
Everett and his cohort of Mighty Mighty local Bosstones. Photo by Horseman
Dave Wakeling, a founder member of the original Beat, lives in California, and leads The English Beat. Fellow Beat founder Ranking Roger leads his brand of The Beat at home, and Everett Morton, the original drummer, has just announced dates for his band, Beat Goes Bang

Time for a chat with Everett, to go with this blog's existing posts on Dave and Roger. you'll find links for those at the bottom of this post. There's clearly a bit of history here. I wasn't planning to dig too deep into the feelings that boil up over a thirty year professional association. But I did... just a bit. 

The immediate question that springs to mind is: leaving Dave's US-based operation aside, is there room for two Beats in the UK, and what sort of musical differentiation will there be?

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Other Campbell Brother

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While the three younger Campbell brothers wrestle with UB40's disputes, elder brother David is rebuilding a folk career, with echoes of their legendary father Ian.

Photo courtesy of Ian Dunn at Principle Photography
Among Birmingham's musical dynasties, one family stands out: The Campbells. The late Ian Campbell was a stalwart of UK folk from the 50s onwards. Driven by socialist principles, he ran the famed Jug Of Punch folk club for decades, hosting everyone who came up through the UK folk scene of the 60s and 70s.

Three of his sons, Robin and Ali, and later Duncan, helped rewrite British Reggae. The fourth is a traditional folk singer. David Campbell, the eldest by two years, is re-emerging in folk clubs and festivals. Like his dad's work, and like the early UB40 recordings, his work is shot though with political conviction; it's a family tradition.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

St Pat's! Paul Murphy, Boat To Row and The Old Dance School at the Emerald Village

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Welcome 2014 additions to St Patricks at the Custard Factory with Moseley Folk. There's some great local music, too, all free. You might have to move around a bit...

If you absolutely must
As of today, we're two weeks away from St Patricks Day. In Birmingham, as elsewhere, it's a huge deal. But it's especially important in Brum because of the size - and roots - of the brummy Irish community. And it's the third largest St Pat's party in the world, behind New York and Dublin. Crikey.

Of course, it's a huge deal everywhere. And it means different things to different people. I'm not a fan of green beer or silly hats, but lots of people love that stuff, so if that floats your boat, well good luck to you.. There is something particularly nice about the fact that St Pat's in Brum, while a huge knees-up, is also a massive cross-cultural celebration. And everyone loves a parade. If it's got dragons, so much the better. So, of course, there will be a dragon: an Oilliphéist, no less.

What about music? Oh yes, there's tons of music. Details – some details, at least - after the jump.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The biggest ever Birmingham Festival: Wireless

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I hear local mutterings, and ruffling of feathers. Big bad Wireless Festival is coming to Brum. Get real - this is serious business, and we should get a slice.


The Largest Music Promoters In The UK, Live Nation, are plonking their flagship brand, Wireless Festival, down in Birmingham this summer. Two simultaneous festivals rotating line-ups between London and Brum over three days. This makes it, by a long chalk the biggest music event in the city: 150,000 paying customers in Perry Park over three days.

This happened without the knowledge or involvement of anyone involved in any of the well-meaning council-sponsored or other bodies trying to push the local music scene forward. Fait accompli, done deal, we're coming, thank you very much. That's business 

So is this a bad thing? I don't really think so. It's how the music industry operates when it's set up to run on an industrial scale. And maybe we should think about building links. The big boys don't need us and our local scene. But we could sure do with touting our wares on a big stage. And there are grounds for optimism.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Forty years ago today: BRMB came out to play

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*** UPDATE ***: Free Radio have kindly let me post their video celebrating 40 years of commercial radio. Links are at the bottom of this post.

Inebriated geriboomer alert - there's a party this week.

Sedate? Pah. I'm expecting big fun, tidal waves of emotion and mawkish sentiment. Why? Well, Free Radiothe successors to BRMB, are throwing a bash for old staff members, on the 40th anniversary of the launch date, February 19th 1974. That's this Wednesday.

I'm one of the BRMB originals. They'd hired me the previous November, along with the great John Howard; we were the first jocks on board. John left, quite early, to make his way to Radio 4. I stuck around for twenty years, ten on them on air as, mainly, a rock jock.

And now it's forty years, two generations, on. Pretty much all the survivors from those early years will be together, in one room. With alcohol. Oh dear. It could get messy.